In December, Florida Governor Rick Scott finally came to an agreement with the Seminole Tribal for a new State Tribal Compact. The state is also looking to pass a complementary bill to expand slot machine licenses. Rep. Matt Gaetz promised an amendment to the current measure on Wednesday, but with the legislative deadline fast approaching, it may be too little, too late.
Matt Gaetz [R-Fort Walton Beach] is the Chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee. In an interview yesterday morning, Gaetz said he will be issuing an amendment to a current Florida gambling expansion bill; one that closely mirrors the existing content that was already approved by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee last week.
Rep. Gaetz, who is currently vying for a position in the Florida State Senate, said he will introduce amendments to the Senate’s current legislative proposal at next week’s Finance and Tax Committee hearing. The proposed amendments are said to be more expansive than the bill currently on file, and will include the original carve-out for fantasy sports betting.
The Senate’s approved bill is designed to emit Florida gambling expansion by way of allowing slot machines to be operated at locations in at least five counties, including Brevard, Gadsden, Lee, Palm Beach and Washington.
The Palm Beach resolution would permit Palm Beach Kennel Club, as well as other horse and greyhound race tracks and jai alai frontons, to host slot machines, poker rooms and other approved gambling amusements without the need to run live races or contests.
The other four locations mentioned have all received voter referendums approving the legalization of slot machines in their respective counties.
Rep. Gaetz’s plan will provide recognition in the State Tribal Compact that fantasy sports betting is a legal activity in Florida. Daily fantasy sports sites are currently under scrutiny in several US states, as well as federal courts, where officials are questioning the activity as a form of illegal gambling.
Clock is Ticking on Florida Gambling Expansion
Time is running short for legislators to move ahead with approval of the compact and correlating gambling expansion bills. If ratified, the compact would maintain the Seminole’s exclusive right to offer banked table games like blackjack, as well as adding craps and roulette to the gaming floors of seven Seminole-owned casinos in South Florida. In exchange, the tribe would guarantee at least $3 billion in revenue to the state over the next 7 years.
“It’s time for both chambers [House and Senate] to start moving toward one another,” said Rep. Gaetz on Wednesday. That statement couldn’t be more true as the cut-off date for the current legislative session is just two weeks away on Friday, March 11.
Senate leaders are clearly skeptical as to whether there’s enough time left to get the proposal through the House and Senate before the deadline hits.
“I don’t know how we unwind it,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano [R-Bradenton] to The News Service of Florida yesterday. Galvano, who played a key role in organizing the State Tribal Compact of 2010 that expired last year, concluded with his fear that the legislation “ends up sitting in committee.”